Sampha Shines on His Debut Album, ‘Process’
British musician Sampha delivers an authentic, emotional tour de force on his highly anticipated debut album, ‘Process.’
British musician Sampha has made a name for himself as a collaborator and producer, not so much as an artist. Now it’s his time to shine as an artist in his own right. He drops his highly anticipated debut album, Process. Three stunning singles released prior to the album foreshadowed its excellence: “Blood on Me,” “Timmy’s Prayer,” and “(No One Knows Me) Like the Piano.” Sampha proves he’s the real deal on Process.
“Plastic 100˚C” initiates Process personally, chocked full of emotion. Lyrically, Sampha brilliantly relies on outer space references to share his emotional rollercoaster. The best instance of this occurs throughout the choruses:
“You touched down in the base of my fears / Houston, can-can-can you hear me now?”
As always, his voice is pained. Clearly, he wears his emotions on his sleeves. He does a phenomenal job of depicting his vulnerability through music.
“Blood on Me”
As great as the opener is, nothing trumps “Blood on Me,” his magnificent promo single. Although groovy from the onset, “Blood on Me” isn’t a particularly exuberant record. Don’t let the radiant and soulful pipes of the musician sway you away from the terror! “Blood on Me” has dark tilt that can be interpreted literally and metaphorically. The chorus sums up the imminent danger that Sampha faces:
“I swear they smell the blood on me / I hear them coming for me.”
Essentially, he erects a song that where he feels he’s being hunted down or forced to run from a devastating threat. He paints a frightening portrait throughout the course of the verses.
“Kora Sings” is incredibly ambitious musically, blending world, dance, and electronic styles. From a first listen, the record is off-putting. Invest into the lyrics, and “Kora Sings” reveals itself. There is clearly lament, with Sampha referencing the death of his mother. While this is his personal emotions connected to her eventual death, “Kora Sings” is applicable to numerous people losing a loved one.
“I really hope there’s angels / because the world is turning, turning way too fast / she says she can’t turn tables / Well I say you don’t know how wrong you are / Or just how strong you are…”
“(No One Knows Me) Like the Piano”
“(No One Knows Me) Like the Piano” is an emotional, reflective gem that grips the listener from the jump. A subtle record, the lyrics pack a punch, not to mention Sampha’s personal, truly authentic vocal. In a sense, he characterizes the piano in his mother’s home as his confidante – the sole person who understands his feelings, issues, and otherwise. On the first verse, the focus seems to be solely on the piano. The chorus, which follows, suggests that there’s more to the story. Verse two personalizes the centerpiece of the song:
“An angel by her side, all the times I knew we couldn’t cope / They said that it’s her time, no tears in sight, I kept the feelings close / And you took hold of me and never, never, never let me go…”
Sampha has returned home, not only for his beloved childhood piano. According to Genius, his return was due to the illness and eventual death of his mom.
Sampha has relevant relationship questions on the brief “Take Me Inside.”
“Does he still make your blood rush? / These days I’m just not sure how to feel / Does he still make you run wild? /Silence and your lips were sealed.”
Clearly, he’s skeptical throughout the course of the first verse. On the freer second verse, he “frees her,” yet seems skeptical of his own interpretation of the relationship. “Take Me Inside” is incredibly reflective and introspective.
“Reverse Faults” gives Sampha one of his most vulnerable moments. Driven by a broken relationship, he uses this song almost as an atonement and confession of his miscues.
“Took the brake pads out the care / And I flew / Smashed this window in my heart / And I blamed You / This anger’s taking me apart / Explosive truths / Except this time I went too far / And I hurt you / I wish I could take it back right now.”
A standout from the first listen, “Reverse Faults” thrives on its poetry. Furthermore, the production shines, like everything else gracing Process.
“A nemesis, an enemy / You’re the crack inside the screen / As I’m singing my soprano / Still flicking through the channels.” That’s the intensity that “Under” brings to Process. Not only are the lyrics affecting, so is the production work. Set in a minor key, the production has a mysterious, dark edge. The repetition of the word under only amplifies the intensity.
“Timmy’s Prayer” is heavy, like “Blood on Me” and “(No One Knows Me) Like the Piano.” Sampha seems to admit he was wrong and messed up a good relationship. The first hint of the repentant musician comes on the intro, “If ever you’re listening,” which also happens to initiate the chorus:
“If ever you’re listening / If heaven’s a prison / Then I am your prisoner / Yes, I am your prisoner / I messed up, ooh / I know now / There’s no room for me to play now / Nowhere to dig my way out.”
Following the chorus, Sampha paints a picture of his regrets and emotion throughout the first verse. Later, he references his brother’s advice that “she’s a keeper,” only to later state, “She’s nowhere to be seen now…” Arguably the climax comes during the more intense, contrasting bridge section
Penultimate record “Incomplete Kisses” is among the grooviest gems from Process. “Kisses” sounds closest to being an urban contemporary song. While it doesn’t sound as sad as the majority of Process, there is still solemnness, particularly on the second verse. Here, the pain of the loss of his mother rears its head.
“Flying high above all your memories / I have a birds-eye view / A child stood at the cemetery / He looks just like you.”
“What Shouldn’t I Be?” fittingly closes Process. A quiet, chilling song, Sampha seems to be exiting the grieving process. On the first verse, he seems to be talking to himself, specifically trying to find himself once more.
“You can always, you can always come home / I know you’ve been out there, out there on your own…/ I wake up in my own skin again / Thinking all about me.”
One of the most gripping lyrics comes near the end, as he reveals guilt towards his brother.
“I should visit my brother / But I haven’t been there in months / I’ve lost connection, signal / To how we were.”
All in all, “What Shouldn’t I Be?” superbly concludes Process.
All said and done, Sampha delivers a gem with Process. He perfectly captures his own emotional rollercoaster. While Process isn’t a jubilant affair in regards to mood, musically, it is a tour de force. There are no misses to be found.
Gems: “Blood on Me,” “(No One Knows Me) Like the Piano,” “Reverse Faults,” “Under” & “Timmy’s Prayer”
Sampha • Process • Young Turks • Release: 2.3.17
Photo Credit: Young Turks